Facing an extremely stressful situation that could’ve resulted in hundreds of deaths, Southwest pilot Tammie Jo Shults safely landed her severely damaged plane in Philadelphia last week after an engine exploded. In the aftermath, the passengers on that plane as well as many in the media have hailed her as a hero, rightfully so. Turns out, Tammie Jo Shults is a committed Christian who loves sharing her faith. And we shouldn’t be surprised by that.
Immediately after the averted tragedy, CNN published a piece titled “We Shouldn’t Be Surprised that Southwest’s Hero Pilot Is a Woman.” In her article, Juliette Kayyem wrote, “Shults showed that ‘nerves of steel’ can have two X chromosomes.”
I would imagine that only the most intransigent misogynist would doubt Kayyem’s assertion. And, to be clear, Kayyem’s article wasn’t intended to be an editorial version of Annie Get Your Gun‘s Anything You Can Do.” While not agreeing with her every assertion, I do appreciate Kayyem’s article, both the content (some of it) and the tone. In the article, she points out that during the crisis at 30,000 feet in the air, the frightened passengers weren’t thinking about the pilot’s gender. Adding to that, I submit that they weren’t thinking about the pilot’s religion either.
Whether or not the passengers cared about their pilot’s faith doesn’t take away from the fact that Shults’ faith played an important role in her calm and successful handling of the near tragedy.
Speaking to Baptist Press, Shults’ pastor, Mike Mantooth, said,
I’m always amazed at the caliber of people at FBC Boerne. Tammie Jo is an example of one of them. Through her commitment to excellence in aviation, she has gained a national platform to give witness to her faith in Christ. We are proud of her as her church family. She is being hailed as a national hero, and we are celebrating what God has done through her and at the same time praying for her as she grieves the loss of a passenger.
In the aftermath, Shults has been eager to give the credit to God, even referring to herself as merely the co-pilot. Speaking for Shults, her longtime friend Staci Thompson relayed that Shults “wants people to know that God was there with her. … He helped her in getting control of that plane and landing that plane.”
Based on Shults’ testimony and life, those words are not intended just for show. She means them and she lives them. A longtime Sunday school teacher for all age groups, she once led First Baptist Church in Boerne, Texas’s, children’s worship program. BP News adds,
Thompson said Shults long has evidenced a heart for evangelism and ministries of compassion. She has provided housing for hurricane victims and widows, helps care for her disabled younger sister and her husband’s elderly mother, and shares her faith in Christ with co-captains on Southwest flights.
So, even though the passengers on Flight 1380 were most likely not thinking about their pilot’s faith, Shults’ faith in God and her desire to submit to His will played a vital role in how she handled the mid-air explosion. While her training and experience were important variables, knowing that she was in God’s hands was an important variable, too.